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  1. #1

    Multiple WCS and Manual Tool Changes


    I have an Avid CNC PRO6060 and am looking to move past creating one item at a time on my machine. Since using multiple WCS for this machine is completely new for me, I was hopeful someone more knowledgeable could weigh in on my assumptions and understanding of the workflow of creating multiple of the same part.To summarize, here's my understanding of the workflow and where I have points of confusion.

    The Project: I'm going to design a valet tray using Fusion 360 and I'd like to make a bunch of them. I'll switch to the manufacturing space and create a setup and appropriate toolpaths for the valet tray (surfacing, pockets, engraving, contour, etc.), and once completed update the setup to use multiple WCS offsets. For this arbitrary example, I want to make 4 valet trays out of four different species of wood at a time.

    T1 - 1/4" Endmill
    T2 - 60 Degree V Bit
    T3 - 1/4" Compression Endmill

    1. Ensure that I have my fusion 360 setup to order operations by tool.
    2. I'll prepare four appropriately sized blanks of material for each of the four trays I want to create.
    3. Home the machine
    4. Fixture each of the four pieces of material to the spoilboard (assuming best practices of course)
    5. Manually install my first tool (T1) into the spindle. This is just a normal manual tool change and I'm assuming the first tool I'm using for the project.
    6. Next I'll configure G54, G55, G56, and G57 fixture offsets in Mach 4 using the Avid CNC touchplate to locate the x, y, and z (because it always does z) location of each WCS fixture offset. Since I've configured my CAM setup to use the machine bed as my Z offset, I'll move the touchplate to the machine bed, change to G54, and use the touchplate to set the G54 Z Fixture Offset.
    7. Next, copy the G54 Z offset value to the Z offset value of G55, G56, and G57 so they all reference the same Z fixture offset (machine bed / spoilboard)
    8. Load my G-Code file and hit cycle start.

    I'm assuming that at this point all my operations for the first tool should run perfectly fine, moving between WCS as needed until a toolchange occurs. Once I need T2, I'll move to the MTC location, remove T1 and install T2. Again, this isn't a huge deal, just a simple manual tool change. If I was running a single WCS I'd use the touchplate on the machine bed / spoilboard to reset the Z fixture offset and hit Resume G-Code and be on my way to a finished part. Easy.

    However, in the case of multiple WCS this wouldn't work because I'd only be changing the Z offset for (in this case) G54 and G55-57 would all still be set to the Z offset for T1.

    Now, in my brains I'd say... no big deal, just copy the G54 Z offset for T2 to the Z offset for G55-57 and hit Resume G-Code. I'm pretty sure this would work just fine, but I'm also pretty sure that this is the wrong or maybe less ideal way to do it. When you toss in the potential for me to mis-paste a value in the fixture offsets table and then find myself with incorrect Z offsets on one or more WCS, it feels wrong. I don't like this repeatative opportunity for human error and lack of flexibility in Z offsets (Think different vice sizes for example).

    So, I read through the tool offsets section of the Mach 4 manual, and I'm assuming that using tool offsets are the way you SHOULD be doing this. I'm just not exactly sure how that manifests as changes to my assumed workflow here. Here are my assumptions that I'm really hoping someone who's done this before can weigh in on.

    Assumption 1. The Avid CNC touchplate can only be used to set fixture offsets, and has no impact on tool offset. When cutting a single part, this simplifies tool changes and removes the burden of tool offsets from people like me who aren't as experienced (lower barrier to entry).
    Assumption 2. If the above is true, then the tool change becomes truly manual, including setting the tool length offset in Mach 4.

    With those assumptions in mind, here's what I'm thinking needs to happen.

    1. Set up my fixture offsets for G54-57 exactly the same as above (x, y, and z) using T1 and the touchplate, and ensure that T1 length is Zero in the Tool Offsets table.
    2. When the tool change occurs, change to T2 and following the Mach 4 guidelines touch T2 to my machine bed / spoilboard and note the Z offset on the DRO. This does NOT use the touchplate, and would be a completely manual operation.
    3. Update the length for T2 in the tool offsets table.
    4. Finish the tool change by hitting Resume G-Code to continue.

    Phew, that's a lot to digest when I look at it!

    1. So, what do you think? Is this how tool changes happen with multiple WCS when you have an entirely manual fixture offset / tool offset workflow?
    2. Am I completely wrong, or are there easier ways or maybe more automated ways to do this?
    3. Do I need to somehow get G43 Hhh commands into my GCODE?

    Any feedback, perspective, concerns, or questions or whatnot would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2016

    Re: Multiple WCS and Manual Tool Changes

    This may or may not help you but figured it was worth sharing.

    I started down the multiple offsets path and couldn't get it right every time, so I went with a simpler philosophy which is working really well.

    Basically the fixtures are designed into the wasteboard in the way of holes and dogs (I use 1" copper pipe cut about 1" long) and every design uses that template. it is very fast to design/program, and I can consistently get it right.

    I am currently using Vectric Aspire as per the below video, but have started drawing up the same setup in Fusion to use it there.


    Initially I was splitting up the job into separate toolpaths for each tool and re-zeroing using the touch plate at the start of each job, but I have recently bought a toolsetter, and found an M6 macro that will let me touch off using the removable touch plate with the first tool, then consecutive tools will move gantry to front and center, then use the toolsetter to adjust tool offset. I am using Centroid Acorn to control my machine so the macro is likely of no use to you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    Re: Multiple WCS and Manual Tool Changes


    I am not saying I am smart or I know what I am doing but I have discovered that I have seriously outgrown what the guys at AvidCNC send pre-configured in Mach4.

    I think one of the biggest limiting factors for the AvidCNC machine is the lack of a real probe and some missing access to features that Mach4 has in relation WCS. That tool touch off plate from AvidCNC is good for finding the corners and the surface but not much else.

    Once your machine has a proper probe then you can use features in Mach4 like surface mapping, WCS that are at angles (aka, you didn't mount the stock perfectly), finding stock orientation from holes drilled from the other side and other cool things you paid for but were not aware of because you didn't have a probe!

    If you buy one of those Mitutoyo 177-187, "Setting Rings" then you can calibrate Mach4 and things start getting pro really quickly without YOU having to be a pro yourself. Which is how its supposed to be, right?

    I say all this because WCS gets really easy when you get a probe and load the other screens that come with Mach4 Hobby. The AvidCNC default screen is missing a lot of really cool stuff!

    Here is a great probe. Just be advised that its NC and your AvidCNC touch-off plate is NO. If you have a ATC then this isn't a problem.


    All I did is buy a 5mm DC plug from Amazon and took a sensor cable with a male end on one side and plain 4 wires on the other and I ran it to the spindle and soldered on the 5mm power plug following the multimeter's clues as to the positive to the center and the negative to the sleeve. I have a velcro tie to hold it up when not in use. I made the probe tool #99 and I coded in my tool change M6 that if the tool is #99 to pause and prompt the operator to attach the cable and to unplug it when it is changed out. I also made a script to never do an M3 when tool #99 is in the spindle. I did the same for #98 for the marking pen tool as well (another must have tool, btw).

    Don't get me wrong, I love the AvidCNC product but they kind of assume you are never going to outgrow their initial setup.

    As of today I run multiple WCS from one script all the time. I programmed my ERP using Java to combine g-code and to add WCS for each one when it generates the daily runs. Eventually I am going to do it by tool so once it picks up a tool it will make all of the cuts in each WCS that uses that tool. When you have a 5x10 machine WCS can be a huge production performance increase.

    I can't wait until I get a vacuum table installed. Then it will just be jog to wherever and probe for each WCS and then hit the cycle start. No more clamps and tape and shaking my fist at the storm clouds above when it all goes horribly wrong!

    AND!! Eventually I want to move up to Mach4 Industrial and do Fusion 360 "In-Process Inspection!" Google that one for a real eye-opener of the possibilities.

    Yeah, AvidCNC makes a concerted effort to hide WCS from you...


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